Victory: Communities United for Police Reform Celebrates Safer NY Act Being Signed Into Law
New York, NY (June 12, 2020) – After years of organizing across New York City and New York State, Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) celebrated Governor Cuomo signing into law a series of bills collectively called the Safer NY Act that together increase police transparency and help increase accountability around New Yorkers' most common encounters with police. The laws he signed this morning - the repeal of 50-a and the passage of a special prosecutor – and the Police STAT Act, which he should sign immediately, collectively represent the first real step in a generation toward realizing the day New Yorkers no longer have to fear the police. The next step in this movement is to push for a $1 billion dollar cut in the NYPD’s budget to allow significant restorations and expansions of critical services.
“Today is a momentous day for all New Yorkers who care about justice, who dream of living in communities where we do not have to fear the police and who know that Black Lives Matter,” said Carolyn Martinez-Class of Communities United for Police Reform. “The Safer New York Act was only possible because of years of organizing, led and centering the voices of police violence survivors, families of New Yorkers who have been killed by the police, and communities most abusively policed. The signing of the special prosecutor bill today in particular is a testament to the tireless dedication of the families and to the pain and suffering they have endured in the name of their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, nieces, daughters and sons. These laws are the first real statewide pushback in a generation on law enforcement’s grip on our communities. We will keep pushing in every community in this state until we realize safety without relying on the police.”
The Safer NY Act includes three bills passed this week. First, a crucial law that will strengthen and codify the office of special prosecutor to investigate cases where police kill individuals in New York state (A1601C/S2574C). Second, #Repeal50a bill (S8496/A10611) which struck from the books the most secretive law on police misconduct in the country. And third, the Police STAT Act (S1830C/A10609), which requires the recording and reporting of demographic and geographic data on law enforcement activity to improve transparency of policing activities across the state.
These laws come after four years of organizing and are only possible because of the commitment and organizing of CPR’s dozens of member and partner organizations, groups from across the five boroughs who united to end discriminatory policing and violence in New York - as well as groups in CPR's Safer New York Act coalition, including groups from across New York State. CPR started eight years ago to end the NYPD’s racist and violent policing, including its stop-and-frisk regime, and will keep working until the day comes when New Yorkers live in communities where they do not have to fear police violence.
The campaign’s next push is to call for a budget that does not give NYPD special treatment amidst devastating cuts to core social services, programs and infrastructure that are crucial to communities of color. Instead, CPR is calling for significant cuts to the NYPD’s bloated almost $6 billion budget to protect and strengthen crucial services we will need for an equitable transition in the COVID-19 period. While a cut of $1 billion may sound dramatic, it would simply return the NYPD’s budget to roughly 2014 levels -- a moment when crime rates plummeted in New York City. The NYPD’s current $6 billion budget is larger than what we spend on health, homeless services, youth development and workforce development combined. In this crisis, NYC has a moral obligation to divest from police and invest in our communities.
Members of CPR’s movement are available for comment to talk about the legislation, as well as the campaign’s call to cut $1 Billion for the NYPD’s budget. See below for additional quotes in response to today’s victory.
“Since the killings of Anthony Baez and Amadou Diallo in the 1990s, families who've lost loved ones to police have been fighting to dismantle the systemic conflict of interest district attorneys have when prosecuting police officers who unjustly take the lives of New Yorkers. With the passage of our special prosecutor bill by both the Senate and the Assembly, the achievement of that goal is close at hand. The systemic changes that will be accomplished by making this bill law will result in greater transparency for families who lose loved ones in the future. It will also centralize jurisdiction over all police killings and deaths in custody into one office, giving organizers and families a single target for our campaigns and demands for justice for police violence victims. We thank the families for their tireless leadership in this fight, the broader SaferNY Act coalition, and all those who've been rising up in the streets in recent weeks. We now call on Governor Cuomo to immediately pass this bill into law,” said Loyda Colon, Co-Director of the Justice Committee.
“The time is up for transforming New York’s policing and ending secrecy around abuses at the hands of law enforcement. As mass protests gather strength across the country in response to police violence and systematic racism, we share the grief, outrage, and demand for accountability and justice,” said Kassandra Frederique, Managing Director of Policy Advocacy and at the Drug Policy Alliance. “For years, we have pushed for the Safer NY Act, including critical legislation repealing 50-a for increased transparency on police misconduct, establishing the office of the Special Prosecutor, and the Police STAT Act and join with our allies in applauding their passage by the Legislature this week. Now we urge Governor Cuomo to swiftly sign them into law. As we continue to work to end the racist drug war, we know our work is not possible without demanding justice for Black and Latinx lives and an end to police violence.”
“We still have a long way to go to challenge and put an end to police violence, but codifying this measure into law is an important step to ensuring justice," said Michael Sisitzky, lead policy counsel at the NYCLU. "When people are killed by the police, the public must be able to trust the integrity of the investigation. Independent investigations into police killings should not depend on who is in the governor's office or how much public pressure exists to demand accountability."
“Today marks the passage of yet another piece of critical legislation to increase transparency and accountability in policing in New York. With the passage of the Police STAT Act on Monday, the repeal of Police Secrecy Law 50-a on Tuesday, and the passage of the Special Prosecutor bill today, New York is on the cusp of a truly historic week in the effort to end police violence,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “The Legal Aid Society thanks Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie for quickly and rightly responding to the overwhelming calls from New Yorkers for immediate and meaningful action by prioritizing this legislation. We urge Governor Andrew Cuomo to enact these bills into law at once. We especially thank the steadfast and unwavering leadership of the families of those who have lost loved ones to police violence for leading the way on this critical legislation.”
"Accountability is the cornerstone of trust in government, and this bill is an important step towards making sure police are held accountable when an officer takes a life. While it's coming too late for hundreds of victims of police violence, the investigations this bill enables will be a crucial step to ensuring nobody, whether they wear a badge or not, is above the law in New York,” said Yafa Dias, Lead Organizer at the Arab American Association of New York.
“We applaud the legislature for passing three of the bills in the Safer New York Act. This victory belongs to our movement, and especially to the mother of Eric Garner, the mother of Ramarley Graham, and all the families who’ve lost loved ones to NYPD violence. Today, we honor them,” said Leo Ferguson, Movement-building Organizer, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice.
“We are proud to fight alongside countless organizations and individuals who have, for years, demanded state action to end racist, violent policing and hold law-enforcement accountable,” said Erin George, Civil Rights Campaigns Director at Citizen Action of New York. “The Legislature’s passage of the Special Prosecutor bill, along with key legislation in the Safer New York Act like full repeal of 50-a and the Police Stat Act, are important first steps toward advancing real safety for Black and Brown New Yorkers. Our work is far from over, and we look forward to continued partnership with elected allies, our grassroots coalitions and directly impacted New Yorkers to make that vision a reality."
“Today we celebrate the passage of several critical bills that will lead to increased transparency, police accountability, and justice, which would not be possible without the hard work of visionary and unrelenting community members, leaders, and activists, particularly numerous family members of Black and brown people who have been murdered by police in New York. While New York has taken several key steps in the right direction, we must remain unwavering on our commitment to justice and keep on the path toward building a safer and more just world for our most marginalized communities,” said Lupe Aguirre, Bertha Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
“Young people know what they need to thrive – education, opportunity, and real safety for themselves and their families. But too often New York has not only invested in law enforcement and other systems that criminalize youth of color, but failed to hold those systems accountable even in extreme cases of abuse and brutality,” said Kate Rubin, Director of Policy, Youth Represent. “This has created nothing less than a public health crisis that predated covid-19. We thank the legislature for repealing 50-a, codifying the office of the Special Prosecutor, and creating reporting requirements for police departments—all crucial steps in the direction of transparency and accountability. We urge Governor Cuomo to swiftly sign the full package into law, and we look forward to continuing to stand with Communities United for Police Reform and its member organizations demanding justice for Black and Latinx youth and families.”
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. CPR runs coalitions of over 200 local, statewide and national organizations, bringing together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.